These are Florida’s most-popular specialty tags at the start of 2020

specialty tags
Not all proceeds from specialty tag fees go to the same place.

It’s been a rough couple of years for the dolphins in Florida — both the NFL team and the sea mammals — at least at the DMV.

That’s because both the “Protect Wild Dolphins” and Miami Dolphins’ specialty plates experienced some of the biggest declines in popularity since 2017 among Florida’s more than 120 options for vehicle tags, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles.

“Protect Wild Dolphins” is the fifth-most-popular specialty plate in the state with 52,459 tag-holders as of October 2019, but it’s one of only a small handful of top-selling plates that saw negative growth in recent years. The Miami Dolphins’ tag has also been losing popularity, falling from the 29th-most-popular plate in 2017 to the 33rd-most popular in 2019.

The University of Florida and “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” tags remain the top two tags in the state for a third straight year, with 95,153 and 86,549 tagholders, respectively. But gaining fast is the “Endless Summer” tag, which has grown by an astonishing 33% in just the last two years, up to 82,961 tagholders statewide.

However, not all proceeds from specialty tag fees go to the same place. On a recent “He Said, She Said” podcast, Michelle Schorsch asked rhetorically, “There are so many (tags), how do you know (where the money goes)?”

Revenues from university plates help fund educational programs at the respective schools, while pro sports team tags help fund state sports and sports marketing programs. Animal and nature plates typically help conservation efforts, but tags like “Endless Summer” and “In God We Trust” (26th overall) may not fund the type of programs one might expect.

“Endless Summer” revenues go the Surfing Evolution & Preservation Foundation, which — according to recent tax filings and the organization’s webpage — has spent very little money on preserving beaches in Florida. Instead, it appears to be holding the majority of its money for a new surfing “experience” museum in Cocoa Beach.

The “In God We Trust” tag funds the In God We Trust Foundation, which drew the ire of WTSP-TV’s investigative unit several years ago. Revenues were not going to the families of fallen first-responders and members of the military, as originally promised. The nonprofit was later turned over to new directors and 2017 tax filings reveal the organization making small grants to ten different religious-, military-, and law enforcement-related nonprofits. 

Other top-10 tags include Florida State (No. 4), Marine Corps (No. 6), “Save the Manatees” (No. 7), “Protect the Panther” (No. 8), Miami Heat (No. 9), and “Protect Our Reefs” (No. 10).

Among the biggest gainers in recent years: the “Protect Our Oceans” tag (No. 15 overall) and the University of Central Florida tag (No. 20 overall), both of which have nearly doubled their numbers since 2016.

Tags that have experienced the biggest drop-offs in recent years: “Support Education” (No. 31), which is down nine spots since 2016; the Tampa Bay Rays (No. 76 overall), which is down eight sports since 2018; “Salute Veterans” (No. 37 overall), which is also down eight spots since 2016; and “Choose Life” (No. 23 overall), which has fallen six spots since 2016.

On Monday, Florida Politics reported how the state’s wide variety of options for vehicle tags has created a multimillion-dollar mess for the state’s tolling authority, which cannot accurately read every plate yet. Only in 2018 did the state mandate a uniform font across all Florida tags, but colors and styles still vary greatly.

Noah Pransky

Noah Pransky is a multiple award-winning investigative reporter, most recently with the CBS affiliate in Tampa. He’s uncovered major stories such as uncovering backroom deals in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and other political investigations. Pransky also ran a blog called Shadow of the Stadium, giving readers a deep dive into the details of potential financial deals and other happenings involving the Tampa Bay- area sports business.


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